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University of Illinois Extension
Beyond Impatiens and Petunias

Shade Tolerant Ornamental Grasses and Grass-Like Plants

While most ornamental grasses prefer and do best in full sun locations, there are a number of grasses and grass-like plants that will provide interest to shaded areas n the garden.


Tufted Hair Grass

Tufted Hair Grass - Deschampsia cespitosa

Height: 2-3 feet.

Width: 2-3 feet.

Bloom: silky green, May-June, maturing to yellow/gold/bronze.

Notes: Dark green clump forming grass. Yellow to bronze fall color. Silky green flower panicles in spring. Best in moist partial shade.


Northern Sea Oats

Northern Sea Oats - Chasmanthium latifolium

Height: 2-3 feet.

Width: 2-3 feet.

Bloom: green, June-July, maturing to copper/brown.

Notes: Has bamboo like appearance. Very attractive seed heads in late summer/fall. Will grow in full shade. Reseeds very heavily.


Japanese Forest Grass

Japanese Forest Grass - Hakonechloa macra 'Aureola'

Height: 12-18 inches.

Width: 18-24 inches.

Bloom: insignificant green, July-August.

Notes: Elegant arching clumps of lime green foliage. Reddish fall color. Slow growing. Best in part shade.


Fall Blooming Reed Grass

Fall Blooming Reed Grass - Calamagrostis arundinacea

Height: 3-4 feet.

Width: 2-3 feet.

Bloom: none.

Notes: Upright clump forming grass. Pink flower plumes in late summer early fall. Best in part shade.


Sedges

Sedges - Carex sp.

Height: 3 inches - 3 feet.

Width: 6-24 inches.

Bloom: Depends on species. Some have attractive bloom June-August.

Notes: Numerous useful species offering interesting foliage coloration. Some are clump forming some spread readily. Tolerant also of moist to wet conditions. Best in part to full shade.


Creeping Lilyturf

Creeping Lilyturf - Liriope spicata

Height: 6-12 inches.

Width: 18-36 inches.

Bloom: Purple, Aug-Sept.

Cultivars: 'Royal Pruple', 'Big Blue'.

Notes: Mounds of leathery foliage. Aggressive spreader. Flowers followed by black berries. Best in part to full shade.


Greater Wood Rush

Greater Wood Rush - Lazula sylvatica

Height: 8-12 inches.

Width: 12-15 inches.

Bloom: Yellow/green, April-May, maturing to chestnut brown.

Notes: Excellent for shaded woodland sites. Soft green foliage.


Sweet Flag

Sweet Flag - Acorus gramineus

Height: 6-12 inches.

Width: 6-12 inches.

Bloom: insignificant .

Cultivars: 'Ogon'.

Notes: Colorful, fragrant foliage. Best in part to full shade in moist to wet soils.